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November 12, 2021 2 min read

You may have noticed that young children often naturally sort objects when they are playing.  Sorting is an early developmental skill that helps prepare children for learning.  The value of sorting for math development may seem obvious, but did you know that it also helps lay the groundwork for literacy skills?  

Sorting involves the process of identifying and describing attributes by their similarities and differences.  This is important in literacy because children often begin recognizing and writing letters by comparing how they look the same and different in shape and size, especially when matching uppercase and lowercase letters. Sorting also helps them develop spelling skills as they learn to alphabetize and notice patterns in words.  In addition, the physical act of sorting helps develop fine motor skills which are needed for holding a pencil and writing.  

Below are some examples of ways to encourage sorting for children at different ages:

  • Babies (0-3):  Use real life objects (such as toys or blocks) rather than cut outs from magazines so they get the benefit of hands-on learning (just make sure objects are not choking hazards). Sort items based on color, shape or size and use piles or cups/bowls to keep it organized.  There are also several sorting toys available in stores as well.*Make sure you talk to your children as they sort aboutWHY the objects belong in each group  so that you can help them begin to pay attention to similarities and differences as well as give them the language to describe them!* 

  • Preschool:  Sort objects based on their beginning sounds.  Use letter cards with the uppercase and lowercase form written on it as headers. While there are numerous alphabet sorting activities and printables online, it is easy and more economical to use the header cards and/or baskets/cups. 

  • Elementary School:  As children start kindergarten, they will begin to notice other patterns in words besides beginning sounds.  This is a good time to sort words based on their middle vowel sounds (a, e, i, o and u).  Picture cards with the words written on the back are a good way to start so that they listen for the way the vowel soundsbeforelooking at it. Word walls are also excellent visuals for helping children remember sight words and other important words.  

  • Late Elementary to Middle School:  Once children have a firm understanding of middle  vowel sounds, they will move on to more complicated vowel patterns (such as ai, ie, oa, silent e, etc.).

Sorting helps children make sense of the world around them while also providing fundamental skills that are needed in literacy. Fortunately, it is inexpensive and easy to incorporate sorting activities that help further children’s literacy development.   

Any questions?  Please email us at Janice@Neighborhoodlit.com.  Taylor Burke is a teacher and Director of Communications at Neighborhood Lit. and works closely with Janice Migliazza, a Reading Specialist and owner of Neighborhood Lit, Route 34, Colts Neck to bring you this information.